ACA Summit: Cable Wants Bundle Options

WASHINGTON — Although the impact of the Federal Communications Commission’s “unlock the box” initiative, mergers, escalating program prices and the value of next-generation broadband services permeated discussions at the American Cable Association Summit here, the underlying theme was the industry’s migration from packaged video distribution to data delivery.

“Everyone has [recognized] that we’re moving toward an Internet-centric business,” Robert Gessner, chairman of the group representing independent MSOs, said in opening the summit last Wednesday (March 2).

“Some of the new marketplaces are further along the path that TV is not necessary,” he added, while insisting that, “For me, TV still provides a strong base.”

“Our members are looking long and hard at how to give customers more choices,” ACA president and CEO Matt Polka said during a press briefing. “Our members are looking at issues such as skinny bundles more seriously. They’re talking about the fact that [bundles are] not important, that broadband is! Not everyone is there yet, but they’re looking to their leaders for [what to do in] the next three to five years.

“The paradigm has really shifted,” Polka said. “The next time deals are renegotiated, the marketplace will have fundamentally changed. Large programmers’ insistence on big bundles, carriage mandates and tiering penalties … simply won’t work for ACA members and their customers in today’s app-enabled world of greater choice.”

Gene Kimmelman, CEO of Public Knowledge, said he found it “very interesting that smaller distributors are interested in going to skinny or smaller bundles. I would not be surprised to see some of the larger companies breaking up the control of the licensed programmers.” ACA’s Summit, which included Capitol Hill visits, attracted about 300 people.

Gary Arlen

Contributor Gary Arlen is known for his insights into the convergence of media, telecom, content and technology. Gary was founder/editor/publisher of Interactivity Report, TeleServices Report and other influential newsletters; he was the longtime “curmudgeon” columnist for Multichannel News as well as a regular contributor to AdMap, Washington Technology and Telecommunications Reports. He writes regularly about trends and media/marketing for the Consumer Technology Association's i3 magazine plus several blogs. Gary has taught media-focused courses on the adjunct faculties at George Mason University and American University and has guest-lectured at MIT, Harvard, UCLA, University of Southern California and Northwestern University and at countless media, marketing and technology industry events. As President of Arlen Communications LLC, he has provided analyses about the development of applications and services for entertainment, marketing and e-commerce.